Richard Nixon and the Quest for a New Majority

By Robert Mason | Go to book overview

FOUR
THE NEW
AMERICAN
REVOLUTION
Issues,
1970-1972

Many in the White House were dismayed about the conduct of the 1970 campaign. Most of Richard Nixon's advisers told him that the rhetoric against the "radical liberals" had damaged his reputation. As speechwriter Raymond Price put it, "Essential … is a return to lowered voices, reason, bring-us- together; and identifying ourselves not so much with angers and frustrations as with the desperate popular yearning for an end to bombast," he wrote. But Nixon did not decide to emphasize the ideal of "bring-us-together." Instead, he was convinced that division was the key to the mobilization of an electoral majority. "Get the word out," he told William Safire in December 1970, "we're not afraid of controversy. … "A"ll the people aren't going to come together, old and young, black and white, rich and poor—not on the bread and butter issues where interests are different. We can't pretend to want to unify everybody, we've got to build our majority."1

The prospects for that majority were reaching their lowest ebb. The early months of 1971 were gloomy for Nixon, who faced serious problems that threatened his electoral future. There were even rumors that he would not seek a second term as president because of the first major problem, the continuing war in Vietnam. Although Nixon had reduced the extent of America's military commitment there, "peace with honor" was apparently no closer. In search of this goal, the U.S. government again escalated the war. In February, South Vietnamese forces, with American support, invaded Laos, leading to what historian Robert Schulzinger described as "six weeks of the bloodiest fighting

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